Rape inquiry dropped, WikiLeaks' Assange remains in embassy

Danny Woods
May 20, 2017

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has spoken on the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London following Sweden's decision to drop a rape investigation against him.

Swedish prosecutors on Friday dropped their investigation, but Assange still faces the risk of arrest in Britain, and he fears he will be extradited to the United States and tried over the leaking of hundreds of thousands of secret U.S. military and diplomatic documents.

Assange's lawyer, Per Samuelson, hailed Sweden's decision to drop the investigation as "a total victory for us".

That's unclear. Assange suspects there is a secret USA indictment against him for WikiLeaks' publication of leaked classified American documents, which has infuriated US officials.

The transparency advocate left no question about his disgust with the governments working to jail him in a series of comments Friday.

"Today is an important victory", Assange, in a black shirt and jacket, told reporters and a small band of supporters crowded around the tiny balcony.

"Assange declared that 'the proper war is just commencing".

The former computer hacker said that despite the "extremely threatening remarks" emanating from Washington, he was "always ready to engage with the Department of Justice".

Prosecutor Marianne Ny said she could not judge whether the 45-year-old Australian native was guilty or innocent because the investigation had been thwarted.

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Samuelsson also said that the decision meant Assange "is free to leave the embassy whenever he wants", though he later told the TT news agency that he did not know when Assange might leave.

WikiLeaks also had a role in the 2016 USA presidential campaign when it published emails written by Hillary Clinton's campaign officials.

The 45-year-old Australian has always denied the allegations, which he feared would see him extradited to the United States and put on trial over the leaking of hundreds of thousands of secret U.S. military and diplomatic documents.

Nor does suspension of the investigation enable Assange to regain his freedom, since, if he walks out of the embassy, he will be arrested on a charge of failing to surrender his bail five years ago.

Last month, the Department of Justice stated that it was reconsidering whether or not to charge the fugitive for his assistance in helping Chelsea Manning, a transgender Army soldier who had released classified government information.

Mr Robertson said the U.S. was likely to indict Assange, and that the Trump administration could use his case as a diversion from the alleged ties to Russian Federation. The maximum sentence for that offense is a year in prison.

Ecuador, which has granted Assange asylum, says it will step up diplomatic efforts to gain him safe passage to the Latin American country. British Prime Minister Theresa May said Friday that "any decision that is taken about United Kingdom action in relation to him (Assange) would be an operational matter for the police". Swedish prosecutors dropped cases of alleged sexual misconduct when the statute of limitations ran out in 2015, leaving only the rape allegation. In order to proceed with the case, Julian Assange would have to be formally notified of the criminal suspicions against him.

He argues that the sex was consensual and has denounced the accusations as "politically motived".

She accused him of having sex with her as she slept without using a condom despite repeatedly having denied him unprotected sex. The rape allegation, the more serious claim, remained under investigation.

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